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Dutch National Breastfeeding Conference

Ans Schönfeld
Bermershof Netherlands
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 41 No. 1, February-March 2005, p. 5.

Since the beginning of LLL in the Netherlands (Europe), there has been some communication between LLL and other Dutch organizations active in the field of breastfeeding. The Netherlands is a small country with 16 million citizens and 200,000 babies born a year. The thinking behind starting this consultation between the organizations was (and is) that it is better to work with each other than against each other as we are all fishing in the same small pond.

Initially, we started consultation with an annual meeting between the board of LLL Netherlands and the board of the Vereniging Borstvoeding Natuurlijk (Dutch Breastfeeding Association). We tried to find common interests to work on together, but it was difficult. There was a lot of mistrust toward eachother. We once tried to organize a conference together, but that attempt failed in the early stages because we could not come to agreement on several issues such as finances, speakers, topics, and presence of babies.

Over the course of the years, more organizations were established. We formed an informal joint venture, consisting of five organizations, called Samenwerkende Borstvoeding Organisaties (SBO). In English SBO means Cooperative Breastfeeding Organizations. The members of the SBO are LLL Netherlands, the Dutch Breastfeeding Association, the Dutch Lactation Consultants Association, The Dutch IBFAN (International Baby Food Action Network) organization, and the Dutch BFHI (Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative) organization. Very slowly, we grew from mistrust toward willingness to cooperate with each other where possible. The SBO meets about three times a year and topics of discussion include cooperation with the government, World Breastfeeding Week, and joint actions in response to articles in the media.

Two years ago the idea came up to organize a joint national conference for health professionals. LLL Netherlands had some past experience with organizing conferences. The Dutch Breastfeeding Association and the Dutch Lactation Consultants Association each organized their own conference every two years, taking turns so there was one conference a year. The response to the idea of a joint conference was positive, and it was decided to hold one between September 27 through October 3 during World Breastfeeding Week 2004.

This decision resulted in recruiting members for the conference committee followed by a lot of planning, negotiating, and finding ways to reach consensus on various issues. This was not always easy to accomplish. There were discussions about finances and our target audience, which affected who would speak and whether or not we would have general sessions and parallel sessions.

There were discussions about having children in the meeting rooms. Some organizations were against this while others were in favor. It was decided that babies up to one year old were allowed to be in the meeting rooms and that children up to two years old were to be taken care of in a nursery.

There were also discussions about the suitability of exhibitors. They had to meet the conditions of the WHO Code. The conference committee met once a month for one and a half years to resolve all of these issues.

The result of this hard work was the first SBO conference on September 30, 2004 in Amersfoort, a centrally located city in the Netherlands. There was a full program from 9:30 am until 4:30 pm with general sessions and parallel sessions to meet the needs of all levels of health professionals, from home nurses up to pediatricians. Of course, members of the five organizations were welcome, too. Topics included introducing solids, baby-led weaning, images of breastfeeding, cosleeping, and more.

The conference was a big success and sold out with almost 800 participants. All participating organizations did an enormous amount of work and we’re proud and happy with the results. The keywords throughout the planning process were trust and respect. It was great to see how this led to "strength through diversity." Our next step is to evaluate the conference and decide whether there will be another one in two years.

The full conference program can be found on the Web site of the joint venture of the five Dutch Breastfeeding organizations:www.borstvoeding.nl/congres2004/programma.htm.

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